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Not enough having the Flu vaccine
Each year from October, GP practices offer eligible patients a flu jab in order to minimise the spread and impact of the influenza virus and keep most of our vulnerable patients well over the winter period. However, each year despite continuing efforts to promote and opportunistically vaccinate these people, there are reports that the number of patients having their flu jab isn’t high enough. Sometimes this is since the data isn’t reported soon enough because of delays getting the first batches of the vaccine, or lack of public awareness campaigns through the media. Often patients wait to be contacted by their GP practice to have their flu jab, rather than be proactive and contact their surgery.
Public Health England has published their most recent National Influenza Report, which showed across indicators influenza activity increased nationally and is now at low intensity levels. The Department of Health have issued an alert on the prescription of antiviral medicines by GPs. 45 new acute respiratory outbreaks have been reported in the past seven days, 25 in schools, 15 in care homes, and five in hospitals. GP practice most recent reports showed that 70.6 per cent of 65+ year olds, 47.1 per cent of under 65 years in a clinical risk group, 41.6 per cent of pregnant women, 34.8 per cent of all two year olds, 37.3 per cent of all three year olds and 29.3 per cent of all four year olds have received the 2014-15 influenza vaccine.
Need to promote the benefits in young children
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have spoken out about the “essential’ need to promote the benefits of flu vaccinations in young children. Public Health England has called for more promotion of immunisation for young children saying that they were "super-spreaders." Stopping flu in children could have added benefits of protecting their parents and grandparents.
Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation lead, said:
“Flu is a highly infectious disease and children spread it more easily as they tend to have more physical contact with others, both of their own age and older family members. If we reduce the risk of young children catching the flu we will make it less likely that vulnerable adults, such as pregnant women and older people, will be affected and reduce their risk of developing complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia from the virus. This is a convenient and extremely effective vaccine that is available free to at-risk groups, including carers. It is essential that we increase public awareness so that we can better control the spread of the flu virus and even save lives.”
We are doing what we can to encourage our at risk patients to have their flu vaccination but I think it may take a particularly cold snap or even a snow shower to remind patients that it’s winter and time for their flu jab.